I started thinking about some of the changes in attitude relevant to women that have occurred over the past fifty to sixty years. I jotted down ten topics and decided to write a brief article on each. I am writing in a very generalised way about attitudes from an Anglo-Saxon viewpoint here in Australia. Speaking from the perspective of a middle aged woman, I think it is not surprising many of us have times of feeling confused by all the changes that have occurred in our lifetime. At the same time, change can be exciting.
Over the past few decades there have been many changes in the ways women are instructed to think and act. When I was a child and later a young women, we were instructed to think of others first and put ourselves last. If you put yourself first you were considered selfish. Being selfish was considered a ‘bad’ thing.
These days, self help manuals and articles tell us to put ourselves and our needs first. The idea is that an individual has to be in good health and happy in order to do her best. Also if you are going to help others you need to keep yourself safe, look after your health and take care of your mental wellbeing.
When you do a first aid course you are told your number one priority is your own safety. On a plane if there is an emergency you are told to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. It makes sense. If you are severely injured or killed you can’t help anyone else.
Sometimes you do need to put the needs of the vulnerable before your own needs. You may be really tired but if you have a sick baby, his/her needs have to come first. Wherever possible it is good to have a support network rather than trying to battle everything alone. If you don’t have family, friends and neighbours who are able to help you may need to make use of child care to allow you some time to put yourself first.
Those caring for someone who is frail aged or has a severe disability need to take advantage of support groups, day options and respite care to give themselves a break. A carer may not be able to put herself first too often but she should whenever she can.
Although the attitude now is for a woman to put herself first, rather than others, I wonder if there is more need to have this attitude these days. It was probably more common for women to have family help close by sixty or so years ago. Families were not as scattered. Fewer women were in the workforce. The extended family tended to be bigger so it was more likely there was someone around to help out. Neighbours were often in and out of each other’s homes. (This wasn’t always a good thing but at times could be a blessing.)
If you don’t put yourself first there may come a time when your body says, ‘Enough is enough.’ I speak from experience. Quite some years ago when all my attention was on the needs of others, I was short of sleep and had little time to relax I ended up in hospital with pneumonia. I had to take a month off work. Others had to cope without me. I had time to read, sleep, watch videos and reflect on what I needed.
There is more awareness of the need to put yourself first these days. Putting yourself first allows you to enjoy life more and will benefit others because it enables you to give of your best. Everybody wins.